The World Anti-Doping Agency has been given the green light to lift its ban on Russia's drug-tainted testing authority after a recommendation from investigators, the global doping watchdog said Friday.
A WADA statement said its independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had recommended that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) be reinstated when the agency's executive committee meets on September 20.
WADA suspended the RUSADA in 2015 after declaring it to be non-compliant following revelations of a vast, Moscow-backed scheme to avoid drug testers.
A WADA report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren accused Russian authorities of running an elaborate doping programme with the full support of the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Russian secret service or FSB.
Russian officials had previously concluded that their doping system failed, but refused to acknowledge claims of institutional involvement.
Tensions within WADA emerged earlier this year over whether Russia had done enough for the sanction to be lifted, with some officials arguing it had not fulfilled a "roadmap" to rehabilitation.
However WADA's statement on Friday said its compliance committee had recommended reinstating RUSADA after reviewing a letter from the Russian Ministry of Sport.
"This letter sufficiently acknowledged the issues identified in Russia, therefore fulfilling the first of the two outstanding criteria of RUSADA?s Roadmap to Compliance," WADA said.
It said Russia had also agreed to provide access to data and samples in its Moscow laboratory to WADA via an independent expert.
That pledge fulfilled the second outstanding criterion on the roadmap, WADA said, "provided that the Executive Committee imposes a clear timeline for such access."
"The ExCo will fully discuss this recommendation during its 20 September meeting and its decisions will be communicated publicly," said the statement.
WADA added that since RUSADA was banned in 2015, the agency and Russian authorities "have been working very hard to rebuild a credible, and sustainable, anti-doping program in Russia."
If RUSADA's reinstatement is approved next week, it could have far-reaching implication across the sports world.
Most significantly, it removes a key obstacle to lifting the suspension of Russia by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), track and field's global governing body.
The IAAF has taken a hardline stance on Russian athletes since the scandal emerged, refusing to lift its ban shortly before the European Championships.
The IAAF has said Russia must fulfill three criteria to be readmitted; the reinstatement of RUSADA, provide access to doping records at the agency's Moscow laboratory from 2011-2015, and payment of costs incurred by the IAAF in the wake of the scandal.
The IAAF will review Russia's status once more at its council meeting in Monaco in December.
Clear divisions within WADA came into the open at its board meeting in Montreal in May, where members from individual sporting bodies called for the ban to be lifted.
Patrick Baumann, a prominent member of the International Olympic Committee, questioned whether Russia should be suspended indefinitely.
"We don't challenge the road map, we simply question for how long we want to follow that road map - for the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?" he told the meeting.
Officials in Russia meanwhile have sent mixed signals over the country's doping scandal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged doping cases but has dimissed Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower whose revelations exposed the scandal as "an idiot" who should not be trusted.
Rodchenkov is currently living in hiding in the United States, and has said he fears for his life.
© 2018 AFP